Hillary Clinton breaks media silence and insists: ‘I want those emails out’

691921a8-36ca-48dd-8410-d617c1ee4718-620x372In testy exchange, Clinton urges State Department to ‘expedite’ release of her personal emails, and defends controversial donations to her family foundation

Hillary Clinton has broken a month’s media silence with a brief, but testy, exchange of questions with reporters that saw her demand the swift release of her personal emails and defend money received by her family.

“I want those emails out,” she told reporters in a five-minute exchange that also touched on controversies ranging from donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees that she has been accused of refusing to address.

“Nobody has a bigger interest in getting [the emails] released than I do,” she added. “They are not mine; they belong to the State Department. But as much as they can expedite that process. That’s what I’m asking: please move as quickly as they possibly can.”

A federal judge has given the US State Department one week to set a schedule for the “rolling” release of 55,000 pages of emails sent from Clinton’s private account when she was secretary of state.

The ruling came on Tuesday morning, after news outlets challenged the State Department’s self-imposed deadline to release the emails in bulk by January 2016.

Clinton also addressed the question of money on Tuesday, denying there was a conflict of interest in her giving paid speeches in the run-up to the campaign or receiving money from foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation.

“I am so proud of the foundation … and I think [the donations] just go to show that people are very supportive of the life-saving and life-changing work it has done,” she said.

But Clinton also acknowledged that disclosures of more than $22m earned by her and her husband from speaking engagements raised questions about the empathy for “everyday Americans”.

“Obviously Bill and I have been blessed, and we are very grateful for the opportunities that we’ve had, but we’ve never forgotten where we came from, and the kind of country we want to see for our granddaughter. And that means we’re going to fight to see that everyone has the same chances to live up to their own God-given potential,” she said.

“The deck is stacked in favour of those at the top, and I am running a campaign that is very clearly about trying to restack that deck,” she added.

The brief exchange with reporters was cut short by Clinton after a serious of shouted questions from reporters led to a raucous and, at times, aggressive atmosphere in the small bike store in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where she had been meeting with local small business owners.

But the secretary also defended her relationship with Sidney Blumenthal, a former Bill Clinton adviser whose leaked emails showed regular lobbying of Clinton during her time in office.

“I have many, many old friends … and he’s been a friend of mine for a long time,” she said. “He’s sent me unsolicited emails that I have passed on in some instances and that’s just part of the give and take. When you are in the public eye you have to work to make sure you are not in the bubble and I am going to work to keep talking to old friends whoever they are.”

And Clinton distanced herself from some Republican rivals who have been slow to acknowledge mistakes over the US invasion of Iraq.

“I know there have been a lot of questions posed to candidates about Iraq over the last few weeks. I have made it very clear that I made a mistake, plain and simple,” she said.

“What we now see is a very different and dangerous situation,” added Clinton in reference to recent setbacks in Ramadi. “The United States is doing what it can, but ultimately this has to be a struggle that the Iraqi government and people are determined to win.”
A month since last taking questions

Despite covering five big issues in less than five minutes, the encounter seemed to do little to stem pent up frustration among many campaign reporters, who had been counting down the days since the secretary last took questions from the media.

Clinton brushed off a couple of brief questions after an event in Keene, New Hampshire, on April 20 but has not agreed to a lengthy press conference or interview since March 10 – a full month before she first confirmed she was running for president in 2016.

Interrupted toward the end of another carefully staged encounter with hand-picked locals in Iowa, Clinton even appeared to tease reporters who asked if she would be taking questions from journalists. “I might,” she said. “I have to ponder it. I will put it on our list for due consideration.”

Her aides stress that the point of small events in Iowa and New Hampshire is to hear from “everyday Americans” about their concerns instead, and Clinton made a point of asking the panel in Cedar Rapids for questions.

But the exchanges appeared stilted and little substitute for the forensic questioning many critics are demanding.

“I cannot tell you how enthused we are to hear that … my reaction is ‘yeah’,” said Donna Sorensen, a community banker whose question turned into a hymn to Clinton’s proposal to reduce regulation for small banks.

“That’s right on the money. That’s exactly right. That is very welcome news,” she added as Clinton nodded.

Another panellist raised a key question at the top of many lists published by reporters – Clinton’s support for a key Asian trade deal – but did not follow up when the secretary said she wanted to wait and see the details before judging it.

The relative lack of transparency from the Clinton campaign has also attracted growing ridicule from Republican rivals, whose much more competitive primary race has seen much more opportunity for reporters to catch them on awkward issues such as Iraq.

Clinton meanwhile, insists that her preference for carefully-controlled campaign events is a sign of how she wants to listen to ordinary Americans.

“This conversation is just another example of why I love doing this,” she told the panel in Cedar Falls. “I feel like we need to have a conversation in our country again, where we are talking to each other, respecting each other. Even when we don’t agree, we are listening.”


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